May 9, 1940 – As Italy was celebrating the anniversary of victory over Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 1936, Britain was preparing for what they were becoming more convinced was an imminent invasion from Germany.
The Ethiopian conquest laid the foundation for what was planned to be the Italian empire, but it had also been designated Army Day in Italy, and as such it was celebrated throughout the country. In the Piazza di Venezia, Mussolini conferred 37 Gold and 15 Silver medals for valor to the memory of officers and men who were killed in action in Abyssinia, Spain and Albania. He pinned the decorations on the next of kin; mothers, wives and children. Mussolini then reviewed a parade of troops through the Square, to the accompaniment of cheers from massive crowds that assembled. Italy was celebrating a red-letter day.
Not so much in Britain as fears of a possible invasion were spreading throughout the country. Even a year earlier, if anyone had suggested the possibility of a German invasion, the response would have been incredulous. However, a year later all that had changed. And even though in reality the possibilities were remote, Prime Minister Chamberlain said the possibility of Germans landing on British soil were not excluded. New legislation was introduced regarding “fifth column activities” and British soldiers were instructed to keep their eyes on the sky, in the event of German paratroops attempted an invasion from the air. Winston Churchill echoed that sentiment in a speech where he said “at no time in the last war were we in greater peril than we are now”. The news of grave danger was reinforced by the announcement that Britain was calling up 2 1/2 million more men for military service. It meant the mobilization of all men from age 19-37. It also signified that a full-fledged cabinet crisis was taking place in England with reports that Prime Minister Chamberlain’s government was slipping fast and there was some speculation that Chamberlain may possible resign.
An ominous day, with a lot more going on, as reported by The Blue Network’s News Of The World for May 9, 1940.